Proactive approach to energy concerns needed

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In the modern age access to energy for our homes and public infrastructure is an undeniable necessity.

Societies across the planet have developed to be more dependent on energy supply while at the same time, use has become more intensive, meaning that the cost of the energy has surpassed the value of what can be produced through its use.

So, when energy demand shows no signs of slowing or stopping what can be the next step for us to accommodate our lifestyles while costs continue to rise?

Especially during the summertime, when increased use of air conditioning and irrigation systems for farmers pushes peak demand upwards, issues begin to arise concerning whether or not a country’s infrastructure is adequate to support its population. The Alberta Electric System Operator asked homeowners in Edmonton and some surrounding areas to curb their energy use on July 9 because record high temperatures combined with very dry weather had put too much strain on the grid.

Meanwhile, just as July came to a close, India experienced what could have been the largest energy blackouts ever on July 30 and 31 as grids collapsed and cut the day’s supply to 370 and 620 million people respectively. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s response was that the government will need to encourage free market reforms so that the country can pull itself out of its slowing economy and have enough money to expand its grid supply.

The problem cannot be just that the cost of energy is rising across the board, or that dense population concentrations bear a heavy weight on suppliers, or that economic stagnation makes it difficult to sustain the affordability of modern life. A combination of these factors creates a situation that is both complex and frustrating. Nobody wants to hear that energy demand is absolutely too high.

Although the global climate seems to only be getting warmer and people born in the future will need increasingly more energy resources to cool their homes or for farmers to grow their food, there is faith in innovation. The obstacle seems to be that countries are low on cash and therefore cannot afford to upgrade their costly facilities in the same way anymore.

Canadians are fortunate because we are in line to benefit from some brilliant initiatives like the Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant and the Sault Ste Marie Solar Park, which are among the world’s largest solar power facilities like Gujarat Solar Park in India and Golmud Solar Park in China. These projects will extend cheaper and more reliable energy to become more available, but are criticized for being economically unrealistic. The truth is that this argument stems from a misunderstanding of energy subsidies and the misallocation of these funds to disproportionately aid fossil fuel and other operations while neglecting other renewable sources.

If the same amount of financial aid was given to, for example, solar projects there would be more ability for governments to hire more workers to expand the grid and avoid supply shortages in the future. In the future the world will have to face even higher demand for energy and may have less of a capability to evolve to address these needs because of economic downturn.

Canada is taking the lead in the early 21st century and could see itself come out on top of the world if it continues to expand in this direction.  While other economies lag behind in their infrastructure reforms, Canadians will need to support greener initiatives to cut energy intensity and produce cheaper supplies at a massive scale.

By handling energy issues on the supply side and focusing more on renewable sources; we can avoid having to drastically change our lifestyles or empty our pocketbooks for other increasingly expensive options.

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